US emergency service centres increasingly opting for VoIP


A report in ‘Government Technology’ journal has identified an increasing use of VoIP among US emergency call reception centres – known in the US as public safety answering points (PSAPs) – because of VoIP’s superior reliability.

The reliability of VoIP (voice over internet protocol) is exemplified in the report by the example of authorities being able to respond to emergency calls in spite of sudden damage to major local fibre-optic communications cables connecting PSAPs in St. Louise Park, Minneapolis.

In the example cited, VoIP enabled all emergency calls to be speedily diverted to PSAPs in the nearby city of Minnetonka.

The report says of VoIP that “with its portability, cost savings and the promise of enhanced functionality, internet-based telephony is becoming the de facto choice in jurisdictions whose PSAPs are approaching the end of their five- to seven-year life cycle”.

The report also highlights another advantage of VoIP seized upon by PSAP managers: that of scalability.

The advantage is summarised in the report by the deputy director of the department dealing in emergency communications in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Keith Lee, who said:

“We’ve discussed partnering with a neighbouring county…We have the ability to host that other county’s entire operations because of this IP-based solution”.

The report also posits a future facilitated by IP telephony whereby emergency calls will be made with the addition of images, such as that of a getaway car following a robbery.

These advantages of VoIP match those usually cited for internet protocol (IP) telephony in general; especially in relation to business VoIP.

For businesses of course, portability, expandability, and disaster recovery are all given as equally a high priority as they are by emergency telephone services managers.

In addition, as with many business phone systems, the report highlights the reliance of many PSAPs on session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking to enable their phones to receive IP telephony signals.